The Norman conquest

Shark feeding frenzy follows -- pro golf blood in water

LIV Golf – Norman conquest

LIV Golf - Norman conquest
(Mike Stobe/LIV Golf/via Getty Images)

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

BEDMINSTER, NJ. In 1066 the Norman Conquest forever changed the development of what would later become Great Britain. Fast forward nearly 1200 years and another Norman — this one named Greg — is intent on forever changing the landscape of professional golf. The LIV Tour starts its third event this Friday in New Jersey and the intersection with another game changing individual — former President Donald J. Trump — makes for interesting bedfellows.

Both have viewed themselves as mavericks — where critics have labeled each as pariahs. 

Trump National Bedminster will be ground zero for the next installment of the LIV Tour.

LIV Golf – Norman conquest

Norman’s appetite for success goes back to his earliest days when starting his professional golf career. His zest for competition and doing so on a golf course was an anathema to his father but the burning desire to push aside naysayers is a trait that has carried the Aussie well — both on the golf course and off it.

How fascinating that Norman’s brand moniker — “The Shark” — is a direct link to the manner by which he has been the point person in pushing forward LIV to a point where the main rival, and still dominant PGA TOUR, has instituted a variety of reforms for the ’23 calendar year. 

LIV Golf - Norman conquest
(Charlie Crowhurst/LIV Golf/Getty Images)

LIV Golf – Norman conquest

The 67-year-old Aussie had a stellar playing career in winning two major championships — both at The Open. And sitting on top of the golf pecking order as the world number one player for 331 weeks — a mark only surpassed by Tiger Woods. However, Norman’s prodigious golf talents also left many to question his wherewithal to finish off events given his sizeable talents.  

Norman is the only golfer to have led each of the calendar year major events in 1986 after the third round. Ultimately, he won only one of them — The Open at Turnberry. Ironically, that property is now owned by Trump. More interestingly, the R&A has seen fit not to stage another Open there since Trump took control of the property in 2014.

Greg’s ultimate flame out competitively came at the 1996 Masters. Leading by six shots going into the final round it seemed inevitable he would become the first Aussie to slip on the famed green jacket. Inexplicably, Norman melted down through the relentless pressure placed on him by long-time rival Nick Faldo. The end result? The Englishman providing the ultimate comeuppance scoring a final round 67 to Norman’s woeful 78.

LIV Golf – Norman conquest

Norman’s business acumen has actually surpassed the high bar he achieved through competitive golf. In 1993 he formed Great White Shark Enterprises after leaving his previous management company, IMG. The company’s name was then changed to the more direct tagline — Greg Norman Company.

Over the years the span of business involvements has been extensive — both in diversity and global reach. Norman’s most noted involvements have included golf course design, apparel, real estate, to name just a few. His business approach has been to capitalize on the connection to a shark’s instinctive movements. 

The concept of having a meaningful world golf tour is something Norman strongly believed in during his playing years on the PGA TOUR. He actually brought the idea to the brain trust of the TOUR and the idea germinated and eventually brought to life the creation of the World Golf Championships events. The only missing ingredient? The TOUR went forward without involving Norman. 

The slight is something Norman has never forgotten.

(L-R) Pat Perez of 4 Aces GC, Talor Gooch of 4 Aces GC, Patrick Reed of 4 Aces GC, Team Captain Dustin Johnson of 4 Aces GC and Greg Norman, CEO and commissioner of LIV Golf, pose on stage during the welcome party for the LIV Golf Invitational – Bedminster.
(Chris Trotman/LIV Golf via Getty Images)

LIV Golf – Norman conquest

Fast forward now and the battle lines are drawn. LIV has siphoned off a number of key players — Phil Mickelson the most notable originally. Others have followed with the likes of Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and more recently when LIV wooed former European Ryder Cup Captain Henrik Stenson to the fold. Others will likely follow as the sums of money being provided to players has been off the charts when compared to what is available via the PGA TOUR.

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Players who have opted to join LIV have been placed on the target list for those families who lost loved ones on 9/11. Letters were sent to players — and to Trump himself for hosting the event — expressing outrage that by playing in the new venture those players have dishonored the dead and are now reaping “blood money” for their continued involvements. Pickets have already made their voices heard outside the gates of Trump Bedminster and their presence will be ongoing through the duration of the event.

Several players have stated that their involvement has been to “grow the game” of golf but that public relations talking point has rung hollow as Saudi Arabia has nothing more than a fledgling golf program that operates only at the highest levels with resort facilities which are visited more so by foreigners than citizens.

LIV has steadily moved ahead and Norman has been the point person in downplaying any critics and highlighting what is planned to happen in ’23. LIV will grow from eight original tournaments to a total of 14. Players inside the LIV tent will be expected to play all 14 events globally. A number of prominent players who bolted from the PGA TOUR for LIV were quick to cite the need to be an independent contractor — playing where and when they please. That belief has been a constant theme when Norman has addressed the topic.

Greg Norman talks with former U.S. President Donald Trump on the first tee during the pro-am.
(Charles Laberge/LIV Golf via Getty Images)

LIV Golf – Norman conquest

However, the “independent” nature is a matter of dispute. Players under the banner of LIV — and even those associated with the PGA TOUR — must fulfill playing requirements stipulated in their respective organizations.

Through all the gyrations — with more likely to follow — Norman has been ever resolute about the nature of how professional golf must evolve. The focal point being LIV at the epicenter.  Norman has even seen fit to denounce former mentor Jack Nicklaus as a “hypocrite” for his alleged back pedal in supporting the PGA TOUR over the actions of LIV.

The shark namesake is apropos for Norman. He has taken a solo path throughout his career — pushing boundaries and going beyond the narrow golf clique that has been at the heart of organized professional golf for many years.

Critical issues remain. Securing world ranking points for LIV events is anything but assured given the 54-hole structure LIV uses. Without world ranking points the probability in attracting other players can prove to be a daunting exercise. 

There is also the larger unknown — will those who lead golf’s four major championships provide entry into the sport’s marquee events in ’23? The next major will not happen until April 2023 when the Masters is played at Augusta National Golf Club. What chairperson Fred Ridley says on the matter will be a must watch moment and could well decide how successful LIV can be in attracting younger talented players in the years going forward.

(L-R) Team Captain Lee Westwood of Majesticks GC, Sam Horsfield of Majesticks GC, Greg Norman, CEO and commissioner of LIV Golf, Henrik Stenson of Majesticks GC and Ian Poulter of Majesticks GC. (Chris Trotman/LIV Golf via Getty Images)

LIV Golf – Norman conquest

Norman’s exuberance for what LIV can be is clearly front and center. His swagger has been defined as hubris by his critics but the Aussie has not been deterred. When LIV was taking shape many at the highest levels of the golf community were quick to scoff at its impact.

That lack of understanding has meant a far slower response from the PGA TOUR until recently. Just recently,  the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has come forward with an investigation of the actions the TOUR has taken to its players in this regard. How that plays out will be a matter of grave importance.

Through it all Norman keeps moving forward. His conquest may not be at the level of the one that took place nearly 1200 years ago but the ripples it has already caused have produced shock waves to professional golf’s long-established foundation. The sorting out will be a work in progress.

The moves ahead — on all sides — will bear close watching.

Roy Scheider when viewing the size of the shark for the first time in the movie “Jaws” — said it succinctly —

“You’re going to need a bigger boat.”

Greg Norman wants others to know this “shark” will most certainly need a far larger boat to handle the conquest he is intent in causing to happen. 

Enter the water at your own risk.

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